off and running!

Two weeks since the first day of school? How can that be! Surely it’s been months — or at the least, months’ worth of living!

Oh my, how we dove right into the fall: school books, new and old instruments, cooking lessons, birthdays, lunch dates, dinner guests, apple picking, Eisenhower Locks, dance classes, and special church events. Fortunately all to the tune of gorgeous weather, so at least I haven’t had to add “seasonal clothing switch” to the list quite yet!

what my school BOOK plans look like, 2021-22 edition

I’m about to send in my IHIPs for this coming school year (iykyk), and am fond of having a record here of what that plan looks like — at least the bare bones of it all!

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Jameson will be entering 10th grade. His work load will look like Teaching Textbooks Geometry, Apologia Chemistry, Memoria Press Logic I, Beautiful Feet Ancient History+, computer building and programming, and piano.


William is starting 8th grade. He will do Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra, Answers in Genesis Physical Science, Beautiful Feet Ancient History+, computer programming, and guitar.


Beatrice will be in 5th! Crazy. She’ll do Teaching Textbooks Math 5, Beautiful Feet Ancient History++, Spectrum Language Arts, handwriting, and piano.


Fiona is going into 3rd grade. She’ll do Bob Jones Math 3, Beautiful Feet Ancient History++, Spectrum Language Arts, Getty-Dubay Italics C, Child’s Garden of Verses copywork, and piano.


Cecily is officially beginning! I’m going to try The Good and the Beautiful for language, although I bought the pre-K bundle. I am just not a fan at the speed with which kindergarteners these days are fed language. She will also do Bob Jones Math K, some Explode the Code, and Beautiful Feet Ancient History++. She is so excited!


Enid has her own little collection of mazes and flip books and colorforms that she doesn’t know about. She will be in heaven!

The little plus signs after Beautiful Feet? I’m excited about doing much of my own thing, once again, with our history/literature/writing and even science unit study. (The girls will have their science included in Ancient History as we learn about climates, animals, geometry and physics in pyramid building, preservation in mummies, etc.) I’m going to lean heavily into BF’s structure and reading list, which follows a 2-prong intermediate and high school approach, and tie us all together with one-room-schoolhouse read-alouds and projects. Figuring out how to manage the various levels is feeling more and more like juggling fine china, but finding a way forward that balances independent and intense work with the warmth of family gathering moments is my goal!

autumn: a list

(For Tea and Poetry this afternoon, I read a couple of poems but then had the school-aged kids make lists of words describing autumn. Here’s Jameson’s.)

bright
cool
crisp
colorful
big sky
brown
crunch
clouds
contrast
orange
leaves
football
pigskin
ears so cold
early nights
hunting
candy
tricks
treats
walks
school stress
chili
pie
apple
pumpkin
warm clothes
fires
cornbread
spice cake
snow
breakin’ my back shoveling
TV
coffee
thanks

take my moments

September. Such a month of beauty and change.

Dark begins to hem us in, bit by bit. I sit inside at 6am, because I need a light to read. We are tucking girls into bed by 8pm because there’s no sunshine outside, anyway. And I love the wild, free hours of summer, but I love this drawing in, too. More often than not, I am in the rocking chair in the little girls’ bedroom every nap time and bedtime, reading to a sometimes captive and sometimes not audience. A month ago the routine looked more like a tick check and washing feet and hurrying them onto their pillows before I turned into a pumpkin, but now there is time, space, slow. I am torn between missing the late night sounds of dribbling and swinging, and loving the lamplight on sweet faces around me. That is life, is it not? Torn between missing and fullness?

We are finding familiar rhythms, tweaked for this year’s needs. Mornings hum with activity and the day’s preparations. Heads bend over books, eager to finish and get outside. Afternoons give way to quiet and rest before another round of humming begins. It is full. There are people of every size everywhere, coming and going. There is the outline of Mama’s routine, but with older children employing self-discipline and goal-setting to see where they can be more efficient. Big girls to teach one-on-one, little girls to entertain and train. A running list of errands, phone calls, people who come to mind, thoughts from Scripture and national situations that take up space in my heart. Meals to plan (and then actually make). Temperatures dropping and suddenly I remember these kids can’t wear shorts all year — time to figure that out, too, I guess. Full.

Life, hurtling forward, and yet, given to us a moment at a time. We are not victims but stewards. This is our time to serve the Lord, our generation in which to shine. And a moment at a time, the serving and shining may not seem especially spectacular, but that is not my concern: faithful obedience to the Word of God, yielding to the call of God on my life is my role. I don’t need to try and shape my life into something I think is worthy of the word “legacy.” He shapes me. He molds me. And it is His legacy I want to leave, anyway. This is both a relief and a challenge: my moments count. My attitude counts. The way I think needs to be transformed by the Word of God, and my heart needs to come under His Lordship.

Today is what I have to give. This moment. And then the next. One foot in front of the other, with eyes fixed on Jesus.

school plans

[Because it always is so much fun for me to hear your homeschool plans, I thought I’d share mine and the tools I have ready for this year. Feel free to comment or link or share a photo of your plan!]

The cupboard got overhauled last week, leaving an empty shelf for the 2020-21 school year’s books. And this week, all but one of those have arrived, I’ve thought through routines and chores and who practices piano when (gah!!!), and the clipboards are all ready to receive new checklists for each child except Enid — who will probably want a checklist, too, now that I think about it.

I was having a hard time getting into school mode this year, but God helped me along by sending a wave of cool, rainy days. In case I was tempted to continue summer break forever, and spend the rest of our lives just swimming and eating watermelon, I am now convinced that wouldn’t work out well, anyway. So, school it is.

Jameson is going into 9th, William into 7th, Beatrice into 4th, and Fiona into 2nd. Cecily will be a very eager pre-schooler and, I suspect, will begin her K year well ahead of the game.

We’ll start our learning each day with Circle Time, a lovely catch-all name for our time worshiping, praying, memorizing scripture, and then whatever else I throw into the basket that year. The boys will lead us in some songs, and I hope to add Beatrice to that mix as well. Sometimes I take over while we learn a hymn, but most often it’s our favorite choruses. After working on a memory verse (they’re each slowly filling their own spiral bound 3x5s) and having a prayer time, we’ll rotate these three books:

History will mostly happen right in Circle Time this year, with lots of read alouds as we follow world events from the beginning of the Cold War through the Persian Gulf War. I’m using the last 20 or so lessons of Mystery of History Vol IV as my spine, helping me to keep things in order, but we’ll go very slowly, digging deeper and following bunny trails as they appear. (For instance, we haven’t even started, and already the kids have been asking questions about the Bolsheviks and the Romanovs, and suddenly I realized “The Start of the Cold War” is going to look a lot like weeks of Russian history!)

For math, the boys will continue using Teaching Textbooks, while the girls do Bob Jones. I’m considering letting Beatrice make the switch to TT and will make that call at some point. Does the visual impact of a book help her learn math concepts? I’m not sure. Every kid is a bit different, but these two programs have worked for us so far!

I’m very excited about Language Arts this year, and am hoping we can spend a chunk of our time honing writing skills. Jameson will be doing Learning Language Arts Through Literature: World Lit, and William will be using their Green Book. (Jameson will read Cry, the Beloved Country and that may or may not be the sole reason I chose this particular course for him! I so love that book!) Beatrice, along with Bob Jones English, will be using a Creative Writing notebook by The Good and the Beautiful. I bought one for Fiona, too, and it’s the one thing she talks about constantly, so I guess she’s excited, too! I’ll also have her do Bob Jones Spelling, as we beef up on basics.

Handwriting will continue for William, Beatrice, and Fiona. The older two are using cursive books from the Handwriting for Learning series, and Fiona will use Getty-Dubay Italics. Jameson will be scrutinized by his mother, but at this point has proven that he can write a neat sentence. The older three will also do typing — and at the moment, my plan is typing.com unless I hear that there’s another amazing program we should try!

For science, Jameson will branch off on his own to do Biology, including a 3/month class with labs and such. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to study human anatomy, which never fails to be fascinating!

All the extras will look like piano lessons for all four, guitar for William, computer programming for the boys, cooking for Beatrice, and plenty of “yes!” when Fiona asks to paint. There will be plenty of reading done by all of them, but sitting together to hear me read will be a daily “big rock” that I don’t plan on ever forsaking. And Tea & Poetry will continue one afternoon each week — another chance for us to sit around a table together and chat and smile and build memories. This post is already long enough, but the goals of our investment must be clear in order for the tools to serve and not derail us, and loving one another and fostering good thought and character and conversation is right up there with whatever details Jameson may retain about amoebas.

So yes. I’m excited. Yes, I’ve spent hours praying and thinking and observing and researching and wondering what would be best for this year. I sharpened pencils and tossed the duds from our pen jar and made sure there are spiral notebooks ready for copious notes. I have kids who are as excited as I am, and I know it will be so much fun. It will also be far more chaotic than I ever remember, Enid will be more challenging than I am prepared for, and cleaning up from breakfast will, inevitably, take f o r e v e r some mornings and I will be ready to blow my lid before 9am. Some of these books will be the perfect fit, and some of these will get traded in for a new plan. I know these things because I’ve been around this block a few times. But what I most know is that being home with all of these kids is one of the greatest privileges of my life, being together all day is an amazing gift that we all recognize and enjoy, and being able to receive fresh outpouring from the Holy Spirit each day and serving out of that abundance is the key to it all.

Pencils ready, let’s go!

redeeming the time

Suddenly we’re all homeschooling moms. Who even saw that coming? Certainly not me.

There are all sorts of memes out there that, funny as they might be, paint a picture of the previously homeschooling mom as cool and calm and unchanged in this crisis. I’m not sure that’s quite accurate. I am about as much of a homebody as anyone, and our homeschool life involves very limited extra-curricular activities — and yet, even so, the whole world being canceled has changed our weeks so very much. My daily routine suffered quite the lurch these last two weeks, and once the initial busyness of trying to make sure we were ready for whatever-this-is was past, I knew it was time for me to, once again, “Write the vision, make it plain.”

Before I just slip into auto-pilot, finishing out the school year and checking off that box, STOP.

This is a unique moment. It’s not necessarily fun. It’s not all easy. There’s the sound of Fear and Anxiety clawing at the door and that needs to be dealt with, and for some the sound of that might be all-consuming. (Reach out. Find a friend to pray with you and stand with you.) But whatever the circumstances that have brought us here, this is an opportunity worth grabbing.

So. Time to pause, and in prayer ask, “What is the vision for this spring? When June comes, what do I want to look back and have accomplished?”

There are layers to that question, but for me, as relates specifically to homeschooling, my answer is: TOGETHERNESS. I want us to love one another deeper, better, and stronger. I want to have a bond with each of my children that is tighter than it was two weeks ago. Do you know, we could all be “stuck” in this house together for weeks on end, and spend the whole time withdrawn and checked out? We could. And that would be an absolute waste. A tragedy.

Yesterday morning I listened to this podcast, and lo and behold, guess what it was about? (Just replace “winter” with “quarantine” when asking her question about goals.)

What is it that the Holy Spirit drops into your heart when you ask that question? Write down the answer, and then pray for ways to implement. Don’t be afraid to change and rearrange and reprioritize. This is the perfect season to do just that.

As overwhelmed as you may feel by the situations around us, and perhaps by the way they are touching the heart of your home as well, God has anointed you, Mama, for this hour, to nurture and train your little tribe. What does faithfulness look like? Don’t be afraid to ask, because He will be faithful to supply everything you need for this good work.